Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ helps Friendships to Flourish. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
You know those sweet commercials about baby products where mom and baby are bonding over bath time? Those always make me tear up. I'm a sentimentalist. It doesn't take much for me to cry. It never has.
Sometimes, it's been a source of frustration for me, the way my emotions lie just below the surface. Other times, it's been embarrassing when I tear up and everyone looks at me like I have a second head on my shoulders. But there have also been times where it's been a good thing. It served me well in counseling, giving me an empathy and compassion that I needed in helping those who were hurting.
Maybe you can relate to being emotional. You know what it's like to feel things deep in your bones. Perhaps you tear up at the slightest thing. While being emotional can make us empathetic and compassionate, there's a negative side as well. And I don't mean being embarrassed because no one else thinks the elderly couple holding hands at the beach is worthy of shedding a few tears. No, there is negative side that goes deeper than simple embarrassment. Because the truth is, our emotions can't always be trusted. Sometimes they exaggerate things. They can make something that's only mildly irritating seem like the worst thing. Other times, our emotions can be downright liars. They tell us things about ourselves and others that just aren't true. They can lead us down paths we'd otherwise never take. And when they take over completely, they are just plain hurtful to others and ourselves.
If you are prone to be led by your emotions:
1. Don't make decisions simply based on how you feel about something: Emotions can be temporary. They fluctuate with our circumstances and experiences. If we follow our emotions immediately out of the gate we will often later regret it. It's a good rule to wait it out a while before making any decisions.
2. Compare what you are feeling with what Scripture says: The Bible is our ultimate authority. It is the very word of God. It is our source of all wisdom and knowledge. God's word sanctifies, transforms, and divides truth from fiction. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Take your emotions to God's word and see how it compares in the light of truth. Oftentimes, God's word will shine in the dark recesses of our heart, revealing things we didn't realize were hidden there. It's truth will stand in dark contrast to any lies our emotions are telling us.
3. Pray through your emotions: This is what the Psalmist did. When he was fearful, alone, abandoned, sorrowful, angry, whatever the emotion, he brought it to God. He expressed his feelings, describing the depth and breadth of them. Oftentimes, we don't pray right away when we are overwhelmed with emotions. We might comfort ourselves with food or shopping, search online for a solution to our problem, or distract ourselves with busyness. We might follow our emotions wherever they lead, only later to pray about the resulting outcome. Yet God wants us to come to him first. He alone ought to be our shelter and fortress. For he is the God who hears and who is our help.
4. Listen to the Spirit, not your emotions: Galatians 5:25 says, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." We need to listen to the Spirit as he guides us in all truth. Sometimes though, our emotions can shout so loud that we can't hear anything else. Sometimes this may mean ignoring our emotions. It may mean putting them aside to seek God's wisdom. It also means being faithful to study God's word, to meditate on what we are reading, and to seek God in prayer.
Emotions are not a bad thing in and of themselves. God made us to have feelings. But we can't be ruled by them or led by them. If we do, we'll find ourselves always vacillating between things and running down rabbit trails that lead nowhere. Be wary of your emotions. Trust God first and filter your feelings through his word. For as the Psalmist wrote, "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge" (Psalm 62:8).